What is the Great Filter? (Fermi Paradox)

galaxy milky way

Thanks to Reddit(If you don’t use Reddit, I would really suggest to go check it out), I recently found out about a theory called the Great Filter, (AKA the Fermi Paradox). The whole idea fascinates me so I have been reading into it. We all know the universe is extremely massive. It has so much potential for life and yet we have no evidence that there is extraterrestrial life. No evidence for life has been found as of yet to prove other life exists. Don’t you think that by now we would have been visited by a space traveling life-form?

The fact that space is so vast, with so much potential for life, and we still have yet to find it leads to a theory known as the Great Filter. The basic idea is that there is something, also known as the Great Filter, which prevents life from expanding and traveling space. Somewhere between the very beginnings of life and an advanced society, something happens preventing travel. The Great Filter essentially stops cosmic travel and ends life. This means we as a species have three possible scenarios we fit into (based on the Great Filter theory):


Scenario 1: We Are Rare

In this scenario, we have already passed the Great Filter. We are almost to the point of space travel so this seems like a likely scenario. Life-forms on other planets would have already hit this filter and died off. The idea that we, as a civilization, are one of a few is a scary thought. Imagining the chances that we are so rare in something so vast is intense.



Scenario 2: We are the First

This scenario is that we are the first to surpass the Great Filter. Using the idea we are the first to travel through space means that for whatever reason, we have managed to pass the Great Filter. It may also mean that only now is the universe life-friendly. We would be on our way to being one of the first colonizations to travel through space. To consider we are the first or only, is an extremely mind-blowing thought, considering the age and vastness of the universe.


Scenario 3: We Have Yet to Hit the Great Filter

One of the scariest scenarios is that we have not yet hit the Great Filter. At some point in the near future, before we are able to freely travel through space, something will happen stopping life. This is a humbling thought. This event will prevent us from traveling through space. Considering we are so close to traveling through space, this event would likely mean mass extinction of the human race.


I’m not saying I completely agree with the Great Filter theory but it is something fun to look at, for sure. It has some flaws including:

  • Size of the universe

          There could be millions of advanced civilizations who just have yet to find us.

  • Ability to detect advanced life

          Space traveling life-forms could be all around us. We just may be unable to detect them

  • Not interesting enough to visit

          Let’s face it, it is completely possible in the grand scheme of things, we are no more significant than a mound of ants and are uninteresting to an advanced civilization.


If you want to learn more check out the Wikipedia page, The Great Filter. What are your thoughts on the Great Filter? Do you think it is plausible? To me it is just another fun thing to look at and not to be taken seriously. Let me know what you think and be sure to keep An Open Mind!



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